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The Jewish World before the Shoah

Aim: To provide students with an awareness of the lives of Jewish children and youth before the Shoah.


  • PowerPoint Presentation - Through Our Eyes: The World of Children before the Shoah
  • Contents of PowerPoint Presentation
  • Group Discussion
  • Creative Assignment (Assessment)


When we approach the story of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, we must show our students real people with unique and individual identities. It is our task to restore the distinctiveness of the victims: their names, characters, aspirations, talents and dreams. This prevents them from becoming anonymous casualties of the Holocaust.

We need to emphasize that each victim had his or her own personality and identity. Each was an irreplaceable person whom the Germans sought to erase from the face of the earth. We have a responsibility to draw out the distinct personal characteristics of each individual, family and community that was lost in the Shoah.

So who were these Jewish people whose identities the Germans sought to wipe out and destroy? In order to realize what was lost, we must become familiar with Jewish life prior to Nazi rule. This will also help us understand the various ways that Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds responded to the increasing violence during the Holocaust. By learning about Jewish cultural, spiritual and family life, we can give the Jewish victim a name and a face, evoking a sense of empathy with them, as they become real people with human identities. The empathy created allows a more meaningful discussion of the Holocaust.

A depth of understanding of the Jewish world before the Shoah is also vital in order to dispel a common preconception about the Jewish victims – uncivilized, uncultured people who lived in closed communities. This conjures up images of Jews who lived in "shtetls," drew water from a well, traded in the market place, etc.  In actuality, on the eve of the Shoah the situation of European Jewry was much more complex: Large collectives of a range of Jews lived both in city centers and in rural villages, many of whom were involved in universal undertakings that affected popular culture and society.

Powerpoint Presentation  

Powerpoint Presentation

The presentation "Through Our Eyes: The World of Children before the Shoah" takes the students into the world of Jewish children before WWII. Through diary entries, testimonies, film clips and photos, children from a variety of countries – Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Tunisia and more – describe their personal experiences.  These children grew up in families with distinct lifestyles and with diverse Jewish identities. However, as children they lived and developed like any other around the world. Ask the students to pay attention to the names of the children, their ages and countries in which they were born. With the help of photos, films and diary excerpts, they will come to know them: their personalities, their families, the schools they attended, their interests and their hobbies.

Group Discussion  

Group Discussion

Creative Assignment  

Creative Assignment
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